May 4, 2018

Sierra Nevada Road Trip

Checking out some of the stunning landscapes of eastern California.

Recently, I browsed my old harddrive and stumbled upon pics from this road trip. It happened during the spring of 2013, two years before I started with this blog. Looking at them brought back good memories, and I thought "might as well share that." So, here's it:

The plan was simple, start in Vegas and make a quick loop west, up the Sierra Nevada and back. Even without some fancy planning, it's hard to go wrong on this, as the region is densely doted national parks and preserves. Our main targets were the Death Valley and Yosemite.

As you cross the state border, the surroundings are dry, desert-ish lands with occasional ruins from the past. Some see these as junk, polluting the otherwise pristine nature. But I  enjoy these, rather a lot - I see it as an opportunity to learn bits about local history. A bunch of mining business was happening around here, and these ruins are like the best illustrated book about the topic. Then you drive further, to a different world..

At the bottom of the mountain range is the Mono Lake, which is like an open-air museum of geology, ecosystem, and even native tribes.

The whole area is spectacular. One moment you drive below the sea-level elevation, and before you know, there are 13,000ft / 3500m+ mountains all over. And speaking of driving, the passes that go through the mountain range are tremendous nonetheless. Driving them is pure joy, until you get stuck behind some motorhome – which; mainly during the summer months, seems like an inevitable curse. But it's hard to be upset, when all you need to do is to stop for a while, enjoy the views:

...and when you return behind the wheel, you have the road empty for some time again. This pattern then continues all the way until the Yosemite Valley. Now, once the outlook on the valley opens, it is an experience.

The whole area is, as mentioned, very scenic from top to bottom - it keeps you happy, and you don't ask for more. However, then you get to the valley, and it surpasses all expectations. Steep, massive rock surfaces are liberally decorated by waterfalls, many of which are over 300ft / 100m tall. The king of them has insane 2,425ft / 739m.

Talking about some jaw-dropping effect there. The only issue was, that if the pass had an occasional traffic jam now and then, the valley was a constant one. Like driving in Chicago's downtown during the rush hour; only here, the walls are natural granite and trees, not concrete and glass. That being said, we left the car in a lot and went on foot, trying to escape the crowds. It worked only up to a certain degree; we didn't have the time to do some massive hikes. Yet, we even saw some wildlife.

Maybe one day I will be able to come back and do some hiking, find some calm spots, spend there the time this place would deserve. Hopefully.

Still, I was beyond thrilled that I had a chance to get a glimpse of it.

And then drive on the other side again..

...where the environment changed just as fast as before; boom, desert.

That had an element of surprise for me. Before heading here, I expected some badlands, some dry soil, rocks, but sand dunes? Nope. Turned out, they are pretty epic.

..so are the other features. Seriously, the colors of all those oxidized rocks are ridiculous.

They even named this portion as "Artist's Palette." This has to awake an inner geologist in everyone. The out-of-this-world scenery peaks at the famous Zabriskie Point.

The sun was getting close to the horizon, and a quick look into a map pointed us towards Dante's View.

..which proved itself as a grand location to observe the sunset.

As the darkness fell, it was time to head back to the state borders.


If you liked this article, you might enjoy my other road trips in the USA, such as:

Rays in the woods

"St Louis:"  Exploring the Gateway to the West.

Colorado

"Colorado" Getting across the USA's colorful state.

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Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories

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